The risks of teen drinking and drug use have never been more obvious. Brain scans are starting to reveal the effect that heavy alcohol and drug use can have on growing brains. Telling teens about this risk isn’t just about keeping them out of trouble; it’s about preventing totally preventable problems. A conversation about what drugs do the brain and body may be one of the most important one you ever have with your teenager.
Damage to the Developing Teen Brain
Brain scans say it all. Drinking and drug use can literally change an adolescent’s brain before it is completely developed. Binge drinking in particular can do enough damage to be seen on a brain scan. The neural connections created during adolescence can be damaged or never created. The human brain doesn’t completely finish its development until a person is in their mid-twenties.
While the brain can continue to grow new connections throughout life, the biggest growth spurt is over by this time. That may explain how young adults seem to grow up and settle down somewhere near their twenty-fifth birthday. The frontal cortex, the last area to develop, gives humans the ability to distinguish good and bad choices, compare and contrast things, develop social awareness, and retain long-term emotional memories.
Drugs Affect Decision Making and Impulse Control
Judgment, decision making, risk assessment and impulse control are not fully developed in the teen years, and this is totally normal. So when a teen drinks heavily or uses drugs, these already unstable skills can be further disrupted. Poor judgment can mean a teen boy jumps into a fist fight while high on meth. Poor risk assessment can mean a teen girl believes she is sober enough to walk home alone at night. Poor impulse control can mean teens having unprotected sex after drinking too much. Teens can make bad decisions in any of these situations when sober. But when you add alcohol or drugs things can quickly become dangerous.
Drug Treatment for Teens
When a teen has a problem with drugs or alcohol, it’s time for treatment. Bargaining, discipline or punishment won’t make them stop. Specialized treatment programs and rehab centers focus on the things your teen needs the most- connection with peers and privacy to protect his or her emerging sense of self. Because teen drug and alcohol abuse is rarely an isolated problem, family participation is an important part of treatment. Many teens with addiction come from homes marked by chaos, conflict, frequent transitions, parenting that is either too strict or too permissive, or a family history of addiction. Family treatment addresses these core issues by helping family members learn to communicate and care for each other in healthy ways.
Finding Help for Teen Addiction
The evidence that teen addiction is more dangerous than previously believed is overwhelming. Teens with drug and alcohol problems need early intervention and treatment. Help your teen turn their life around and get started with drug and alcohol rehab today. Call our toll-free number 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available options.